Cleft Palate Surgery & Pediatric Craniofacial Services

Craniofacial services are specialized health care services for infants, children, and adolescents with craniofacial anomalies.

We treat children of all ages with a wide range of conditions, including cleft lip, cleft palate, microtia, craniofacial microsomia, and skull malformations including craniosynostosis. Because of the complexity of many of these conditions, patients are evaluated and treated by a multispecialty team of experts.

Accredited Craniofacial Center

Our center offers surgical reconstruction, genetic testing, speech therapy, hearing evaluations, dental and orthodontic treatment, psychological evaluation, and more. Care is coordinated through team clinics and conferences in order to provide the best treatment plan for each individual patient. We are accredited by the American Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Association.

Multidisciplinary Approach for Various Craniofacial Conditions

We provide surgical reconstruction and medical care for children who have a medical condition affecting the head or face. Our multidisciplinary care team works together with each family to determine the most effective treatment plan for their child’s needs. Conditions we treat and services we provide include:

  • Cleft lip and/or palate: Opening in the upper lip and/or the roof of the mouth
    • Nasal alveolar molding (NAM)
  • Pierre Robin Sequence
  • Treacher Collins Syndrome
  • Craniofacial Microsomia
  • Microtia: Partial or total absence of the ear
  • Craniosynostosis: A type of premature fusing of the skull that inhibits normal growth and development
  • Craniosynostosis syndromes: Including Crouzon, Apert, and Pfeiffer Syndrome

What to Expect at Your Initial Team Visit

During your initial team visit, you will be meeting with several dedicated specialists. Our Craniofacial Nurse Coordinator will reach out to you prior to your visit to let you know what to expect, get some initial information, and make your visit more efficient. Because you will be seeing multiple specialists throughout the day, your initial visit will likely take approximately three hours. We want to avoid unnecessary delays or repetition, so don’t forget to bring all of your child’s medical records, including the names of all individuals involved in your child’s health care and all medical reports, x-rays, and CT scans or MRIs.

After your visit, all the specialists will meet in a care conference. This allows for coordination of care and development of an individualized treatment plan. A report with the team’s recommendations is drafted and sent to you as well as your pediatrician.

While you may see some of the individual specialists more frequently depending on your child’s needs, most families usually return for a full team evaluation every one to two years. If you are traveling a long distance and need overnight accommodations, our program coordinator will work with our social worker to help you find options.

What is Cleft Palette Surgery?

Cleft palate surgery, also known as palatoplasty, is a type of reconstructive surgery in pediatrics that repairs and rebuilds the structures of the mouth and throat.

The most common form of cleft palate surgery is a single-stage procedure that involves closing the cleft with sutures or surgical staples.

This procedure can be done in one or two stages, depending on the severity of the cleft.

Additional surgeries may be required to improve function and appearance.

What Causes the Need for Palate Surgery?

Clefts are open spaces in the roof of the mouth, which can cause problems with speech and eating, as well as an increased risk of ear infections. Without treatment, these issues can lead to serious health problems in the future.

What Happens During Cleft Palate Surgery?

Cleft palate surgery is performed under general anesthesia for the comfort and safety of the patient.

During the surgery, a surgeon will repair both sides of the hard and soft palate, which are the roof and sides of the mouth.

The surgeon will suture or staple the cleft together and then reshape the tissue to match the surrounding area.

Cartilage from another part of the body may be used to reconstruct parts of the palate that have been damaged by the cleft.

Cleft palate surgery is sometimes combined with other procedures to improve the appearance of the face and mouth, including:

  • Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping)
  • Orthognathic surgery (jawbone realignment)
  • Otoplasty (ear shaping)

Signs & Symptoms

Cleft palate surgery is performed on infants as early as four months of age.

Signs and symptoms that may indicate the need for cleft palate surgery include:

  • Difficulty feeding (especially with a bottle)
  • Difficulty breathing while eating
  • Frequent ear infections or fluid draining from the ears
  • Speech delays due to improper formation of sounds

Get your infant evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible to determine if cleft plate surgery is possible.